Last Shot: A Review

lastshot_full.jpg

Last Shot Review

by Franklin Taylor

What do you do, when you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a firecracker fuse strapped to your back being lit? What do you do, when your eyes burst open once the auditory sound passes through the ear canals into the synapses of the brain, and you see your best friend of many years standing next to you eyes wide in a state of confusion? What do you do, when it turns out your memory recall floods in moments of you and your friend in what at the time seemed unconnected, but now crystallizes into sharp focus? What will you become once that firecracker goes off? This is my review of the novel Last Shot by Daniel José Older.

Before I Begin...

Set a few years after the fall of the Empire from the movie Return of the Jedi, Han Solo and Leia Organa have “settled” down to raise their son, Ben Solo. Leia continued into her role of politics building up the New Republic. Han not so much. Meanwhile, Lando Calrissian, after his mad dashingly roguish piloting skills of destroying the second Death Star has thrived in Cloud City building up a great business in droid manufacturing. Until shadows of the past came back to collect on Han Solo and Lando Calrissian from their separate exploits aboard the Millennium Falcon. This ticking time bomb set in motion shatterpoints, for Han and Lando as they must work together to face the past, present, and future in the last shot against the sinister Fyzen Gor. A crew is assembled. The kind of crew that you will instantly fall in love with.

Going into Last Shot...

I knew that the plan of Last Shot was to take a story of Lando and his droid partner in shenanigans L3-37 set before the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story,  a story of Han and the ever so wonderful Sana Starros set after the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, and wrap it up in the “present” time of three years after the movie Return of the Jedi. What I didn’t realize was that there would be a back and forth from all three parts in the timeline as each moment in time stitched together the total narrative in one big giant blanket of adventure.

Leading up to reading Last Shot, I had previously read Daniel José Older’s short story “Born in the Storm” from the anthology From a Certain Point of View. I was definitely caught off guard by how well the story pulled me into its gravity well. There was something special about Older’s writing that was both malleable and sincere in a free spirit type of flow. Knowing his writing style from the short story, I was very excited to jump into how he would write a Han and Lando story.

I Was Not Prepared...

When it comes to Star Wars novels, there is always a question of how far the story will take you. In the case of Last Shot, it strapped me onto a rocket, with 16 trillion gallons of fuel, set on one goal: taking me on a journey out of this galaxy. By out of this galaxy I mean taking me on a wild stylish adventure flourished, with genuinely sincere moments that made me care about them ever so much more than I already had.

Storytelling Approach...

If there is something to be said of Daniel José Older’s writing style is it is a no filter plug in straight to the center of his character’s minds. From the meticulous planning of Lando on his wardrobe of choice, to the fragile ego of Han, to the surgically specific reasoning of Fyzen Gor. Older has a way of words that brought me closer to seeing the same wavelength of his characters. I was never lost on the intent of the characters in the story, even if there was a clash of miscommunication in either language barrier or context clues between each other in the novel. I quite enjoyed how wrong Han would comprehend questions thrown at him, like when Sana went to ask him about his friend Chewbacca, and Han thought she was asking about his ship.

Where the story really takes hold is the reflections Han and Lando have between each other, and those they love around them. Han stepped into a whole new dimension of reality, when he became a father, and everything he knew in life was uprooted. Lando is standing on the precipice of his future as the career and choices in life are teetering on the edge of a new journey if he just reaches out and takes it. The way Han and Lando look at each other’s lives and from past, present, and future created such beautiful character moments. This story is really a rebirth of the two characters, but at the same time melancholy since the story of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were looming in the back of my mind while reading this novel.

Not to mention, what Older did so well in Last Shot was work against expectations. It takes a lot of writing skill to take a story in one seamingly scattered direction, and then grab the reins to pull in everything at once into perfect little moments. I especially like how every character is given a chance to be viewed from a different lens. For example, Peepka, who is an Ewok slicer, is immediately looked over from Han and Lando due to their surface level comprehension of Ewoks, but later on they value her contribution to the team, with a new lens on how limited they had let themselves be on preconceived notions of Ewoks. Labels and more important mislabeling becomes a huge factor in how the characters interact.

Getting More Out of Last Shot...

It is not necessary to read other Star Wars stories before jumping into this novel. If you do decide to read other Star Wars stories as a way to build up your enjoyment of the novel I have a few recommendations (I am limiting my recommendations a bit to give more fine tuned suggestions. I do suggest checking out my reading guide The New Republic: Year One if you want even more reading):

BEFORE Last Shot...

Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig: Set right after the events of the movie Return of the Jedi, tells the tale of Imperial Hunters going after the remnants of the Empire until it builds up to a last stand on above the sands of Jakku. Many events unfold throughout the trilogy as we get snapshots across galaxy. Many echoes of this trilogy are linked into Last Shot.

AFTER Last Shot...

Bloodline by Claudia Gray: Set about 5 years or so before the movie The Force Awakens, tells the tale of Leia Organa and her motivations to creating the Resistance against the coming threat known later on as the First Order. In a way this story goes hand in hand with Last Shot as it builds up so much of an emotional connection of Leia to the readers like Last Shot does with Lando and Han. Though, it does bring it towards a more sorrowful downslope as it bridges Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens.

Overall...

Last Shot is a wonderful story! As someone that is more interested in reading about new characters inside the Star Wars universe, Daniel José Older was able to both create addictingly interesting new characters, and bring me closer to the preexisting characters as well (there was a moment I unexpectedly related to Han). I know this novel will become one of my go to novels to read again soon. I cannot recommend it enough!

If you go the route of the listening to the audiobook it offers not one, but three narrators. Marc Thompson, who narrated the Aftermath trilogy narrated the present time. January LaVoy, who narrated the Bloodline novel narrated Lando and L3-37’s flashback story. And the one, the only, Daniel José Older, who wrote this novel narrated Han and Sana’s flashback story. If you go the route of audiobooks from Aftermath trilogy to Last Shot to Bloodline, it has a very interesting audio progression!

A Deeper Dive Into Last Shot...

In my reviews, I tend to shy away from spoilers due to wanting the reader to experience the story for themselves. However, if you want to hear discussions on Last Shot from the Escape Pods Network, you are in luck! The Skytalkers podcast has a wonderful episode discussion of the novel here! Plus, the Unmistakably Star Wars sister show The Force Discourse has a multi-part series here!

What did you think of Last Shot? Let us know!